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Former Georgia officers indicted following shooting that left a man paralyzed

The man's attorneys have also filed a lawsuit against the cities of East Point and South Fulton, as well as both officers who have now been indicted.

EAST POINT, Ga. — Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify that the injuries Devin Nolley sustained left him paralyzed. 

Three years after East Point Police officers opened fire on a stolen black Nissan and left a man paralyzed -- two of them have been indicted.

The shooting happened in Dec. 2018. Police and the victim's attorneys have given different stories about what happened that day. In the end, Devin Nolley was paralyzed from the neck down. 

The now-former officers, Rodney Etienne and Shiron Nicole Varner, were indicted by a Fulton County grand jury on Monday on charges that include aggravated assault, the Grand Jury concluding that they used excessive force when trying to arrest Nolley.

According to authorities, that day in December 2018, an officer in an unmarked East Point police car identified a stolen black Nissan in a gas station parking lot on Camp Creek Parkway. Several marked police cars joined the unmarked vehicle and followed the Nissan to a Publix parking lot on Carmia Drive.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said uniformed officers walked up to the Nissan. The driver, later identified as Nolley, reversed and rammed the unmarked police car. Officers fired upon the Nissan. Nolley then drove toward I-285. Officers from the City of South Fulton then joined the pursuit, records show.

Once Nolley reached the interstate, he collided into the median wall, got out of the car and ran toward the woods. As he was running away, the officers shot him in the back. 

But according to one of Nolley's attorneys, Jackie Patterson, his client never rammed a police car.

“My client simply backed up and drove around them, and that’s when they started shooting at him at the Camp Creek Marketplace," Patterson said in 2019.

Patterson also said that officers rammed Nolley's vehicle on I-285, causing him to lose control.

“He jumped out of the vehicle, jumped over the rail to head towards the woods and that’s when they shot him in the back and he was completely unarmed," Patterson said in 2019. "He was shot twice in the back and twice in the legs."

Nolley's attorneys have since filed a lawsuit for $30 million against the cities of East Point and South Fulton.

On Thursday, Atlanta Attorney Don Samuel, who represents former-officer Etienne, said the shooting was justifiable under the circumstances.

"The driver of the car tried to run him (Etienne) over" at one point in the attempt to stop Holley, Samuel said. "The driver of a stolen car, you know, gunned the engine and was heading right for him.... that was the aggravated assault, so at that point he (Etienne) was the victim of an aggravated assault, actually shot his gun at that point and then the car sped off and got onto the interstate and they gave pursuit."

When Nolley later got out of the car and tried to run into the woods, Samuel said, "Officer Etienne and Officer Varner ran after him, and shot. He was clearly a fleeing felon. He posed a danger to the community. He just committed an aggravated assault on the police officers. And that's what this case is about."

"It was excessive force to shoot a man in the back who was unarmed, who was running away from the officers," Patterson said Thursday. "The D.A.'s office has determined that, no matter what my client did."

He added, "the officers used excessive force And that's the real issue in this case. No lives were in danger at the time that they fired and struck him in the back."

However, Samuel disagrees with that assessment.

"Georgia law specifically says that officers are allowed to apprehend fleeing felons, and if the felony was an aggravated assault or a dangerous felony, they have an obligation to apprehend the fleeing felon and use the force that's necessary to do so," he explained.

Patterson added that Nolley now lives in a west Georgia facility receiving 24 hour care. 

"He's depressed," Patterson said. "He's got a small daughter. And the only reason why he's trying to stay alive from this paralysis is because he wants to, at least, try to get some justice for his daughter, to see that these officers get convicted."

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